A Nantucket home embodies classic design
Legendary interior designer Albert Hadley once said, “Decoration is really about creating a quality of life… That’s what all this is about, not just what’s in and what’s out.” Known for his sophisticated yet user-friendly designs, the late Hadley made being a decorator in the mid and late 20th century like being a rockstar, says Nantucket interior designer Anne Becker. Becker notes that Hadley’s eye-catching designs—an adventurous blend of traditional and contemporary— were unique in his day and are still considered great today.
Fitting that Becker incorporated one of Hadley’s designs—a green, leaf-patterned window shade—in her design work in a new home on Nantucket’s Medouie Creek Road in 2007. These particular shades serve as more than just a decorative way of drawing in the bucolic meadowland surrounding the property—they are also indicative of the timeless design choices throughout the entire house. Instead of simply relying on what was trendy, Becker set out to make informed design choices that would stand the test of time and provide the understated coastal comfort the laid-back homeowners sought.
During her initial meetings with the homeowners, Becker says the clients—a husband and wife who have three now-adult children—knew they didn’t want their summer home to feel like a typical Nantucket beach house, but rather feel more like a lake house. “One thing she said to me as we started working together,” Becker recalls, “was, ‘I’ll be honest with you: I have no idea what I like, I just know what I don’t like.’ When someone knows themself that well, it makes things a lot easier—even though it does sound like a challenge, it put it all in perspective right upfront.” And it gave Becker, along with architect Lisa Botticelli and builder Patrick Hehir, the opportunity to play with design options.
One seemingly minor, yet key design choice in the home—which overlooks Medouie Creek—came in selecting oil-rubbed bronze hardware for doors and cabinets. “It’s pretty substantial,” Becker explains. “It’s also rustic. If we had gone with, say, brass, which is more popular now, I feel like in 15 years it would’ve been like, ‘That’s when they went through the brass phase.’ For this house it seemed more natural, and casual, to go with bronze and more appropriate in feeling like you’re out in the country versus a big house on Main Street, where you might do polished nickel because it’s a captain’s house that’s more formal.”
Living spaces in the approximately 5,000-square-foot home are warm and inviting, bathed in an abundance of natural light from the many view-facing windows and sets of French doors. The formal living room is as abundant in light as it is in texture—from wicker chairs and bamboo blinds (found throughout the house) to a cane coffee table and an end table comprised of antique stacking baskets. “I love texture,” Becker says. “I think texture is everything. For one thing, if [textural pieces] get a little beat up, they don’t look bad—they look like they’re old and happily used. All of this texture adds more character. It’s more cozy too.” Becker adds, “My aunt was an interior designer, and she always talks about ‘wabi-sabi,’ a term meaning the imperfection in something is what makes it beautiful.” One piece that particularly embodies wabi-sabi in the house is found tucked in a corner of the living room: an old woven basket, like those once used for fishing. “It’s sort of beat up and off-kilter, and that makes it feel very personal,” she says.
Around the corner from the living room is the library/TV room, with mahogany trim and beams and burlap grasscloth walls. “[The homeowners’] kids were young when the house was built,” Becker notes, “and I wanted the room to feel not-so intimidating for them to come in and put their feet up and watch TV. We wanted it to be fun but timeless too.” Curved mahogany window seats (window seats are a staple on both floors of the house) feature cushions upholstered in a colorful pattern, a Japanese-style design made by Schumacher called Katsugi—reinforcing the room’s subtle Asian aesthetic. The neutral colors in this space, like the faded brown of an armchair and the pale blue-gray of the couch, evoke a Nantucket aesthetic. “Nantucket is brown and gray, for the most part, and it’s beautiful, but these are muted colors,” Becker says. “The subtlety of these colors is what I gravitate toward. It’s not that strong colors are wrong by any means, but for me, a house is such a haven, and to be comfortable and cozy means a lot to these homeowners.”
Upstairs, shiplap and tall beadboard chair rails compose the walls, strikingly so in the open, spacious family room. Becker decided upon the combination of woods with Botticelli and Hehir. “We wanted to keep it relatively simple,” she says, “and because this is such a big space, if you did one thing—like if you only did the shiplap—it would feel a little overkill.”
Off of the right-hand side of family room is the master suite, complete with a balcony overlooking the creek. The walls are painted in a pale lavender color called Silver Bells. Becker says the homeowners were quite open-minded when it came to paint choices—from the lavender of their bedroom to the caramel of the guest suite to the blue-gray of the open kitchen, dining and living room. “Lavender might scare some people off, but this is a soft color that almost changes, whether it’s cloudy or sunny, day or night. And it doesn’t feel too feminine,” she notes. In the master bathroom, grasscloth makes another appearance as part of two lacquered tables. Down the hall are the couple’s office spaces. Becker compares the husband’s office to “a ship’s cabin,” as it consists of teak and maple flooring and mahogany walls. Like the library, Becker says this office gives the husband the maritime feel he desired.
Off of the left-hand side of the family room are the son and daughters’ bedrooms, each with their own full baths. The aforementioned Hadley window shades are found in the daughters’ room, which features vibrant pops of green and salmon in the furniture and bedding.
Becker has maintained a working relationship with the homeowners over the last decade, assisting with any necessary spruce-ups—faded rugs in need of turning, broken strings on blinds in need of re-sewing. She is currently in search of the right window shades and a kilim runner to add some warmth to the wife’s office space. Like Albert Hadley, Becker believes design should enhance a homeowner’s sense of joy in their surroundings. The refined comfort of the house on Medouie Creek achieves just that—and that’s truly why this house will be a classic for all time.